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August 23, 2022

Sulphur Market Falls Back to Earth. Good News for Fertilizer Industry Watchers.

Canola Field surrounded by clouds
Canola field surrounded by dark clouds

By Daryl Schuster, President, Keg River Fertilizer

Some good news for those who buy and rely on fertilizer. The commodity price for sulphur has seen a significant correction following recent turbulence. Over a recent five-week period, the average spot price of sulphur has dropped 80% at the port of Vancouver. (Source: Fertecon Weekly Reports, July 14th – August 11th, 2022)

It is a staggering decline – and represents a ray of light for those in the agricultural sector. Sulphur is not only a key plant nutrient required for healthy growth and yield: it is also an essential ingredient in the production of phosphate fertilizers.


This chart, compiled from Fertecon's weekly reports on the Vancouver Spot Price for Sulphur, shows an 80% decline between July 14th and August 11th, 2022.

This chart, compiled from Fertecon’s weekly reports on the Vancouver Spot Price for Sulphur, shows an 80% decline between July 14th and August 11th, 2022.

The decline in S pricing exceeds expectations.

Over the past 7 months, with sulphur prices reaching stratospheric levels, I’ve been posting sulphur market updates – along with my thoughts on where the market is heading.

My advice to sulphur fertilizer buyers was to sit tight over summer and put off the purchase of fall sulphur fertilizer until August. All signs were pointing to the stabilization of sulphur commodity prices.

It turns out, this was sound advice. But even I was shocked by how quickly and how dramatically prices have fallen.

It’s some good news in an industry that has taken it on the chin lately.

How will lower sulphur prices affect fertilizer pricing?

This market correction will certainly reduce the manufacturing costs for fertilizer producers who rely on sulphur. Buyers can expect to see the wholesale cost of sulphur and phosphate fertilizers come down.

Manufacturers who bought at the height of the market may understandably take a while to lower their prices, as they recoup the costs of raw ingredients purchased earlier. Those who anticipated a decline are buying raw ingredients at today’s price. They will be able to pass on savings sooner.

How our fertilizers are priced?

Much of our cost is for elemental sulphur that is indexed on the trailing average of the export value of sulphur. That figure is reviewed weekly but fixed on the last Thursday of each month.

Added to that is a “burden”, which includes wages, maintenance, bentonite and other chemicals, utilities, and depreciation. Besides the burden, we build in a reasonable margin, which determines the FOB Edmonton price per ton or tonne, fixed for the next month and estimated for the following month.

Then we add packaging and outbound freight if applicable. The outbound freight will be fixed for the next month and estimated for the following month. We expect only a modest change in freight from month to month.

Sulphur fertilizer sales are expected to pick up.

Okay, while I’m in no hurry to pull out my crystal ball after this wild ride, I do have one prediction.

I expect elemental sulphur fertilizer sales activity will pick up in response to this market correction. That being said, commodity prices tend to go up in Q4, which is traditionally a time of higher global demand. But any increases should be incremental as a sense of stability has returned.  

May your patience pay off!

At Keg River, we always strive to be up-front with our retail buyers. It’s why our advice was to hold off on fall purchases for as long as possible, while the market sorted itself out. The rise and fall we recently experienced are almost exactly like the summer of 2008. Let me tell you, we’re just as pleased as you are that some sanity has returned to the market.

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